Local accusations over election dirty tricks unfair until proven in public

By Robert Washburn

A brief promoting a story being prepared for Friday’s edition of Northumberland Today accuses the local Liberals of underhanded tactics during the last provincial election.

It is all part of the federal Tories agenda to create a smoke screen over the horrendous robocalls scandal currently making front-page news across the country.

Accusations are flying all over Ottawa that the Conservatives used an automated calling centre to redirect Liberal voters to the wrong polling stations during the last election. At last count opposition parties have identified 46 riding where this allegedly happened.

In parliament, the Conservatives are using their usual stonewalling strategy by not acknowledging the problem and flipping the accusations back on the opposition parties. Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro led the charge over the weekend, slamming away. Now, it seems Northumberland MP Rick Norlock is gearing up with his own version of righteous indignation to distract local voters.

While nothing irregular is being reported in Northumberland-Quinte West, Norlock teamed up with MPP Rob Milligan to accused Lou Rinaldi, the Liberal candidate in the fall election, of dirty tricks. The brief report says Milligan has contacted Elections Ontario about voting issues.

What is irresponsible in this case is that there is no proof being made public, just the suggestion. The idea is to smear Rinaldi and his team for allegedly doing something that is unfounded until someone steps forward with concrete evidence.

Unlike the election scandal in Ottawa, the local one does not have real people publicly telling their stories about the suspicious calls. News media is full of individual stories of automatic phone calls sending these people to the wrong polling stations.

Also, media reports are saying complaints started coming in almost immediately after the federal election last year. CBC reports it posted stories on May 2, 2011 about Elections Canada warning people not to trust calls about polling stations.

No doubt, Northumberland Today is chasing this important story and hopefully there will be lots of details coming forward. The journalists will do their job and we will know lots more come Friday.

Meanwhile, residents of Northumberland should be disgusted with Norlock and Milligan for their behavior, trying to distract the public away from the serious situation in Ottawa. This kind of vicious politics is what is currently causing such an outrage. Both politicians should be dialing down the rhetoric and media spin rather than ratcheting it up. Local voters should demand more from their election representatives and they should comply.